Convicted Unanimously by a Jury of His Peers
Happy Easter one and all! It’s not actually a holiday here in California, but oh well. Short edition this week, since I already wrote a 2,000-word newsletter today, which also means I don’t have much in the way of Big Thoughts™️ and this is more a log of my media diet. Nevertheless, enjoy!
Images today are plague doctors from Public Domain Review. Fun fact: plague doctors were not present for the Black Death (14th century), rather coming about some three centuries later (17th century), which just goes to show how not-static the pre-modern world was.
What I Read
I finally got around to reading the copy of Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game that I picked up at the Strand. I vaguely remember it as being a.) a mix of Clue and Agatha Christie and b.) being one of my favourite childhood books. That description is… exactly correct! It’s extremely charming and it really speaks to my inner child. But… it also hasn’t aged that well. I mean, sure, there’s Black Panthers references that probably resounded much more in the late ‘70s, but we also have the bizarre situation of the Chinese restaurant owner’s wife, who doesn’t speak English, stealing things to go back to China? And this is never really explained??? Which is a shame, because then her stepson (an Asian-American kid who ends up being an Olympic winner) is a surprisingly well-rounded portrayal for the late ‘70s. Basically, I want a modern film remake. 🤔
Crafting Interpreters, which is one of my favourite books of all time (technical or not), is finally done! The author, Bob Nystrom, has a great post up talking about the history of and process of working on the book. Interestingly, all of the images are actually drawn by hand! Warning, though, some tears may be shed.
This article, from the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association, talks about why San Francisco streets feel so… depressing? Spoiler alert: they’re badly designed!
What I Watched￼￼￼￼
Following up from Helvetica, Gary Hustwit streamed Objectified for free. Disappointingly, I didn’t think it reached the heights of Helvetica—it mostly consisted of various designers mumbling about what makes good design, with nary a narrative strand in sight.
Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer never quite reaches the mastercraft status of its follow-up Parasite—it’s far more heavy-handed and occasionally clumsy—but still well worth a watch.
We, like most of America, watched the Netflix original Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, & Madness, chronicling the rise and fall of tiger zoo owner Joe Exotic. We chewed through the whole series in a week, which I suppose is some kind of stamp of approval, but I walked away feeling rather uneasy, especially after watching part of the Joel McHale-hosted “after show” released today. This piece in the New York Times captures that feeling well—it feels more like a reality show than a considered documentary, with the intent of making stars of its subjects (some of whom, it is rumoured, were paid for participation); the welfare of the animals only occasionally peeks through the human drama of duelling zoo leaders; and Carole Baskin, who’s no angel but probably not the devil either1, is villainized in almost the same light Joe Exotic painted her in, at least going by the number of people I’ve seen that joking-not-joking say “Carole did it.”2 I wouldn’t go so far as to call the show “irresponsible,” though if there ends up being a “Free Joe” campaign it may well be (as he was, remember, convicted unanimously by a jury of his peers after admitting to animal abuse!). It makes an interesting contrast with the first episode of Don’t Fuck with Cats, which is much more careful to present a balanced picture (and explicitly says “maybe mob justice is bad”!).
What I’m Listening To
This episode of Lingthusiasm from last month, “What makes a language ‘easy’? It’s a hard question”, is a delight. I think I’ve sung the praises Gretchen McCullough and Lauren Gawne before, but if not: Lingthusiasm is regularly a delight. This episode references a bunch of my favourite facts: language learning difficulty depends on where you’re starting from; complexity in one area of a language allows for simplicity in others; languages with small speaker communities tend to be more complex, and in particular tend to be more synthetic, hence why both Mandarin (the most widely spoken language in the world) and English (which was spoken by huge communities of non-native Scandinavian vikings, Irish slaves, French Normans…) “don’t have grammar”.
I don’t know how I found it, but I’ve been hung up on this folk album, Folkesange, by Danish “dark folk/black metal” (?) musician Myrkur.
The Rooibos Corner
He’s not usually this photogenic.
What I’m Working On
Buttonup, my Buttondown client for iOS, is coming along. For more details, follow my buttonup Dev Diary newsletter 🙂
I’m working on a project with Rob and some others but shh.
Then there’s the revamp of rwblickhan.org which I’m still dragging my feet on… but it is getting closer.